The email came in from the Dallas Stars Media Relations department within minutes of Joe Pavelski’s 2nd period goal against the Flyers. The message was simple, yet impressive:
With a goal this afternoon against Philadelphia, forward Joe Pavelski ties Bill Guerin (429) for eighth place all-time in goals among U.S.-born skaters.
It’s hard to fathom which part of the sentence is more eye-catching, 429 goals scored or the fact that only SEVEN U.S.-born players in the more than 100-year history of the NHL have scored more than the man called Captain America. Maybe the craziest thing about Pavelski’s Hall of Fame career isn’t just the numbers, but the way those milestones were achieved.
First of all, 7th Round draft picks rarely play in the NHL. In the past 20 years only one Dallas Stars 7th round selection has played more than one game in the league—Jyrki Jokipakka taken in 2011. Of all the players in NHL history selected in the 7th round, only two have played more games than Pavelski (Doug Gilmour and Todd Marchant). Pavelski is second to only Gilmour in goals scored by a 7th rounder (450-429).
Then there is the age factor. Of Pavelski’s 429 goals, more than half (238) have been after Joe’s 30th birthday. When the Stars signed the aging veteran in 2019, some “experts” believed the Stars had overpaid, stating there was no way the then 35-year could continue to be an offensive force. After all, the previous year Pavs had a career best 20.2% which carried him to 38 goals for the Sharks. That pace would be unsustainable. The Stars leading scorer since the signing? Joe Pavelski with 180 points (74-106-180), while missing only two regular season games during that time frame. Not too shabby for an old man.
Maybe the most impressive part of Pavelski’s prowess is the way he creates offense. Going to the front of the net is not easy. Deflecting a 1-inch thick by 3-inches in diameter object traveling upwards of 90 miles per hour is no easy feat. Doing that while balancing on two knife blades while 200-pound defensemen try to run you over is even more impressive. Wayne Gretzky was in his office behind the cage, Alexander Ovechkin owns the left face-off circle, but no one has ever possessed as much hand-eye coordination in the slot than #16 in Victory Green.
If you really want to see what makes Pavelski great, come down to any pregame skate and watch him work. Before any of his teammates are on the ice, he’s on the ice, down low, working on catching on the forehand and immediately shooting the backhand. Puck after puck, shot after shot, the motion is repeated until it becomes pure muscle memory. Then comes the tip drill. First, it’s shots from the left point, then center of the zone and finally the right point. The majority, if not all airborne projectiles are met with the sound of rubber hitting wood. Watching the tenacity of work is noticed by all in the stands and rubs off on his younger teammates just stepping on to the ice.
The all-time leading goal scorer among U.S-born players is another hockey legend, Mike Modano. Joe Pavelski is 132 lamplighters away from the record. At age 38, it would seem to be a tall task. But when your nickname is Captain America and performing at a level players 15 years younger aspire to achieve, nothing is out of the question.
For a very brief time in 2012, Jaromir Jagr was a Dallas Star. Fans knew to pay special attention because legends don’t often play for the home team. Pavs is not an icon just yet, but the way he is performing at an age when others are retiring, legend status is still a possibility. Greatness isn’t easy to attain but very noticeable when it occurs. For Dallas Stars fans, it is time to truly appreciate what is happening in front of our eyes every time we are lucky to witness Joe Pavelski on the ice.